Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gay Marriage & the Creation of Rights

The proposition eight situation in California illustrates the dangers inherent in judicial creation of pretend "rights."  I support the legalization of gay marriage.  The U.S. has been moving steadily in a direction that is more tolerant of homosexuals, and we are slowly getting to the point where gays have all the same rights as heterosexuals.  But it is a slow process.  Gay rights activists, and the left in general. are unwilling to wait on the Democratic process to change the laws,  let alone the constitutions of states, or of the nation.  Instead they prefer to use the judiciary in order to find imaginary rights to gay marriage, thereby legalizing it against the wishes of the majority. 

Judicial activism designed to create "rights" has a number of problems.  Most importantly, these rights are imaginary.  They are clearly & obviously not found in either the U.S. constitution, or state constitutions,  and are supported by nothing other than the opinion of a few judges. Whether or not they should be rights is irrelevant, since they do not have the force either of majority opinion as with a law, or of the supermajority necessary for a constitutional right.  Using this tactic risks antagonizing the majority, creating a weak right, and causing a backlash that can result in the majority removing that right by legislative action.  This is what happened in California.  Even such a liberal state is not yet ready to legalize gay marriage.  The country has moved far, but not far enough.  Look at Barack Obama.  He is arguably one of the most liberal Democrats ever elected president.  But even he is on record opposing gay marriage.

Gay rights activists argue that it isn't fair that gays should have to wait to achieve the same rights as heterosexuals.  They want their rights now.  I agree, it isn't fair that they have to wait. But life isn't fair.  The U.S. has a legal process involved in changing the laws, and amending constitutions.  If you use the courts to go outside this process, against the wishes of the majority, you not only undermine our Democratic institutions, you create antagonism toward your cause, or even open hostility.  And your newly created "right" is a weak reed supported by nothing.  It was put in place against the wishes of the public, and exists only as long as it is tolerated by the majority.  


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quick Early Reflections on Mumbai

According to the Washington Post, the situation in Mumbai is finally under control.  Once again, this attack demonstrated how much damage a small, motivated group of terrorists can inflict.  Could this type of attack happen in the U.S.?  Unfortunately, yes.   A large country with an open society such as the U.S. is particularly vulnerable.  We'd like to think that our police & counterterrorism forces would be more effective in a similar situation, but that's doubtful.  An attack inside luxury hotels gives terrorists a large number of potential victims, and numerous opportunities to take hostages.  In addition, travelers and workers in those type of hotels are unlikely to be armed, and have little means of resistance.  The presence of so many innocent civilians in the buildings greatly impedes the counterterror response -- as seen in Mumbai.  The Indian forces couldn't just blast their way into the hotels, so instead you had a siege situation that lasted three days -- all caused by only 15 terrorists, according to latest reports.

It's fashionable in some circles to downplay the threat of terrorism, particularly of the radical Islamic variety.  Mumbai is yet another reminder that the threat is real.  People who recognize it and want to take action against it aren't "fearmongering," engaging in the "politics of fear,"  or whatever other ridiculous jargon is often used to dismiss them.  


Friday, November 28, 2008

A RINO Responds

John Hawkins, who blogs at Right Wing News, has a new column up at Townhall entitled "Five Hard Truths for RINOS." As a pro-choice Republican who supports some sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, gay marriage, and has other heretical positions, I qualify as a RINO when viewed by hardcore conservatives. Here's my RINO response to Hawkins' five points.

1.  We've already gone the moderate route -- and lost.  This makes no sense and is an overreaction to McCain's loss.  How many strongly, ideologically conservative candidates have won the presidency, other than Ronald Reagan?  McCain didn't lose because he was too moderate.  He lost because this was a "change" election, he had no clear message, and his opponent was simply a better candidate in almost every respect -- other than his positions on the issues. And on the issues, Obama ran as what?  Yeah, a moderate.

2.  A "moderate" GOP can't generate the volunteers or money needed to win.  Again, I think Hawkins' analysis is based too heavily on John McCain. Hawkins argues that running a moderate depresses the base & hurts fundraising.  But McCain was not just any moderate. Because of his actions & his political grandstanding over the past eight years, John McCain was especially despised by the Republican base.  Short of Chuck Hagel, McCain was probably the most disliked Republican among conservative Republicans.  Let's look at Mitt Romney.  Most people consider him a moderate Republican.  Would the right-wing base have been demoralized in the same way, had Romney been the nominee?  I don't think so. 

3.  There can be no fiscal conservatism in D.C. without social conservatism.  As a fiscal conservative who is not a social conservative, I find this argument strange.  Hawkins points out that if you look at pro-choice Republicans, "at least 75%" of them are also "big spenders."  Well, this may be true of the current Congress.  But it is not true that you have to be a social conservative in order to be fiscally conservative.  Ask libertarians.  The current makeup of Congress does not preclude us from electing people who are fiscally conservative yet socially moderate.

4.  The GOP's drop amongst Hispanics hasn't been caused by opposition to illegal immigration. I agree with Hawkins that support or opposition to illegal immigration is exaggerated as a cause for gaining or losing Hispanic support.  Hispanics aren't single issue voters. Depending on the overall situation, and his other positions, I believe it is possible for a Republican with a hard line on illegal immigration to achieve a higher level of Hispanic support than John McCain.  And any position on illegal immigration should be based on what is best for the country, not on whether or not it gains or loses Hispanic support.

5.  The GOP cannot win without the conservative media.  Hawkins writes:

that the GOP absolutely cannot win elections when they're telling everyone who'll listen that the Republican Party is mediocre.
I think he's correct for the reasons given in the article. I'm not a big fan of Limbaugh, Hannity, and other conservative radio hosts, but they are a vital part of the GOP base.  The Republican party is a large national organization.  It is not necessary, or even benefical, that everyone agree on every issue.  But the GOP cannot afford to ignore this part of the base, or nominate candidates they are going to work against.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More Right-wing Atheism

Apparently another new explicitly non-religious right-wing blog has been started at Secular Right. The more right-wing atheists in the blogosphere the better.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Myths" about Progressives.

Campaign for America's Future, a liberal blog, has an interesting article up that outlines what the author holds to be ten myths that conservatives believe about progressives.  Are they really myths?  

1.  Liberals hate America.  Yes, this is mostly a myth. There is a segment of the left that is virulently anti-American, but it is a minority. Calling all liberals anti-American is just a smear.

2.  Liberals want to leave us defenseless.  This is a myth because of the emphasis on what liberals want.  It is true that liberals often advocate policies that conservatives think would weaken the U.S.  But like conservatives, most liberals believe their policy positions are best for the nation.

3.  Liberals hate the free market.  Whether or not this is a myth depends on your definition of the free market.  If you think government regulation of every facet of the economy, public & private partnerships, massive government spending on stimulus & bailouts, blind support for unions, higher taxes on investors & the most productive elements of the economy, and support for every socialistic program short of outright socialism is love for the free market, then liberals love the free market. Otherwise, not so much.  This is not a myth, at worst it's an oversimplification.

4.  Liberals hate our troops.  Like point #1, this is definitely a myth except for a small minority of the left that really does hate America & the troops.

5.  Liberals are a bunch of elitists who hate decent working- and middle-class Americans.  Many liberals are indeed elitists -- as are many conservatives.  But whether elitist or not, I do not believe they hate working and middle-class Americans.

6.  Liberals are against "family values." As with the free market, this depends on your definition of family values.  I'm ok with calling it a myth.

7.  Liberals want to raise our taxes.  I'm sorry,  but this is most definitely not a myth. Liberals certainly do want to raise taxes, and most do not appear to understand simple economics, such as the fact that higher taxes on businesses result in higher cost to consumers -- in effect raising taxes on the consumers. 

8.  Liberals are Godless—and therefore, amoral.  Obviously a myth. Belief in gods is not a requirement for morality, and many liberals are believers anyway. 

9.  Liberals don't believe in personal responsibility. This is a myth only if asserted that starkly.  I don't think it's a myth that many liberals tend believe less in personal responsibility than conservatives.

10. Liberals are wimps.  This is myth as a blanket statement.  Whether or not it is true depends entirely on the context in which it is used.  When applied to liberal positions on foreign policy and some other issues, it can contain an element of truth.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Irrational Left & the New Deal

I like to browse thru some left-wing sites just to keep up on what's going on with the other side.  Today I was over at Open Left and came across a post entitled, "New Deal Denialism--Conservative Liars On The Rampage." This post is a clear example of how some on the left are so utterly clueless & irrational, that is impossible to even talk with them. The author starts out with the assertion that:

conservative economics collapses disastrously under the weight of its many, many lies

He's not trying to be funny, he actually believes what he's writing.  What "conservative economics" is he talking about?  Who knows.  He goes on to argue that any deviation from the Keynesian view of the New Deal and its effects following the Great Depression is "New Deal Denialism." Anyone who disagrees with his canon truth is not just wrong, they are lying.   The author is apparently oblivious to the fact that almost every aspect of the Great Depression & the economic history that followed it is highly debated by historians and economists.  He puts up a chart illustrating that he doesn't understand that correlation does not imply causation, and again dismisses everyone who disagrees with his views as a bunch of liars.  Again, they don't just have a different interpretation -- they are lying.

This attitude is typical of a certain breed of leftists, and of fanatics of any stripe.  They know the TRUTH, and anyone who disagrees is not just wrong but acting out of evil motives.  How could anyone possibly disagree with the TRUTH? 

Missile Defense

There' a good article in the Wall Street Journal by Brian T. Kennedy of the Claremont Institute.  It details the catastrophic consequences of EMP,  from an attack by even a single nuclear weapon. Kennedy makes a strong case for missile defense.  As he points out, our current capability consists of:

only a rudimentary system designed to stop a handful of North Korean missiles launched at our West Coast. Barack Obama will become commander in chief of a country essentially undefended against Russian, Chinese, Iranian or ship-launched terrorist missiles.

This has been something I've thought was crazy for decades, since I first became aware of the strategic situation during the Cold War. There has long been only one threat, against which we had no defense, with the potential to completely destroy the United States: nuclear ballistic missiles. During the Cold War we deliberately chose to leave ourselves defenseless, as part of the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. Because of the calculus of MAD, we wasted 30 plus years when we could have been developing and testing countermeasures.  Now, even with MAD & the Cold War behind us, we still have plenty of people -- mostly on the left of course -- who think missile defense is a waste of money, or somehow provocative.  Given Obama's attitude toward missile defense, it's likely the limited progress we've made will be halted under the new administration, and we will continue to remain virtually defenseless to nuclear ballistic missiles. We were very lucky to get through the Cold War without a nuclear clash, and we'll have to trust to luck for the next four to eight years as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Failed Regulation

The Washington Post has an article up that illustrates why the fiscal crisis was as much a failure of government, as anything else. It demolishes simplistic notions that more regulation would somehow have prevented disaster. IndyMac, WaMu, and Countrywide were all regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision. How did that work out?

The total assets of the OTS thrifts to fail this year: $355.7 billion. Three others were forced to sell to avoid failure

Regulation and regulatory bodies like the OTS were part of the problem. There's no guarantee that new regulation or regulatory bodies will be any more effective than those that failed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gallup Poll on 2012 GOP Candidates

A new Gallup poll shows that Palin, Romney & Huckabee -- in that order -- are the leading choice of Republicans and "Republican-leaning independents" in 2012.  Hopefully Republicans can come up with some better options before then.  Let's consider these three in reverse order.

Huckabee.  An populist who likes to mix his religious beliefs with policy, and who isn't particularly conservative except on social issues.  No thanks.  He's my least favorite of the three.

Romney.  Mitt seems like a decent guy, is an ok speaker, and is the best on economic policy.  He's my top choice of the three.  But his campaign this year didn't exactly catch fire.  He couldn't even get the nomination in a fairly weak field of candidates.  Why would he do better in 2012?

Palin.  Much of the base loves her, but I think that's as much a reaction to the insane hatred & smears of her by the left as anything else. Other than energy and her social conservative positions, what do we actually know about her policy views? Does anyone really think she has a good grasp of national issues? What about her performance during the campaign actually makes people think she'd be a good candidate in 2012? She gave a good acceptance speech and was great at the convention.  From then on it was all downhill. Why does she deserve a shot at the top of the ticket?

Obama's Job-creation plan

CNN is reporting that Obama has outlined a plan that would:

rebuild the nation's roads and bridges, modernize its schools and create more sources of alternative energy, creating 2.5 million jobs by 2011

It sounds like a great source new source of pork and wasteful spending.  The government isn't bleeding away money fast enough with all the bailouts, and our new president is determined to get a quick start on outdoing the Bush administration in overspending money we don't have. The details aren't out yet, so hopefully it won't be as bad as it appears.

Hillary as Sec. of State?

It appears that Hillary will accept the position. As with most politics, this is a lesser of evils situation. Obama isn't going to pick anyone I, or most Republicans approve of.  The other most talked about candidate was John Kerry. Given a choice between Kerry & Clinton, I'll take Clinton any day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kathleen Parker's "God" article

There has been much blogosphere discussion of Kathleen Parker's "Giving Up on God" article in the Washington Post. Here's my take. Parker's argument is weak and counterproductive. It's weak because the religious right had little to do with the GOP defeat. Parker is so obsessed with Palin that she's blinded herself to the main reasons Republicans got crushed by Obama. This election was about change and the economy. Republicans lost because their candidate was tied to a horribly unpopular president, who, along with Republicans in general, got the blame for the current state of the country. When most people think the country is going in the wrong direction, being associated with that direction is a political loser.

Did Palin cost Republicans votes among moderates and independents? Of course. But so what?McCain would have lost with Tom Ridge (my personal favorite for vp) or any other moderate candidate. Along with all the other things that were stacked against the GOP this year, McCain ran an erratic campaign with no clear message, in contrast to Obama's clear message of change. McCain's fumbling response to the fiscal crisis sealed his doom, not Sarah Palin.

Parker's argument is counterproductive in attempting to alienate a signficant portion of the GOP base. I'm no fan of the religious right, but from a Republican perspective, her attitude is every bit as stupid and shortsighted as those of social conservatives who want to excommunicate moderates.  The Republican party is and should be a big tent organization focused on a range of issues where Republicans agree.  Blaming people on either wing for defeat is completely unhelpful. 


I comment quite a bit on some other blogs, so I figured I'd start my own. I'm in my 40s, married, have an 11 year old son, and am self-employed. My education includes a B.A. and an M.A. in history, and the completion of a PhD program specializing in military history. But I never finished my dissertation, and am no longer a professional student. Like many people blogging, I'm a political junkie. As the blog title suggests, I'm an atheist, although I am not hostile to religion & religious people, and come from a family background that could fairly be described as fundamentalist Christian.

I'm a Republican and usually vote for Republican candidates, although often only as the lesser of two evils. I'm a right-winger on foreign policy/defense/national security/economic policy, but much more libertarian on social issues. For example, I strongly supported the Iraq War.  I believe in American exceptionalism & the promotion of U.S. interests, and am largely skeptical of internationalism. But at the same time I'm pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, support the legalization of drugs, gambling & prostitution, and of course am an atheist. That should give you a basic idea of where I'm coming from. This blog will offer my opinion on a variety of issues, but mostly involving politics & current events. Please feel free to comment.